Concert Review: FRIZZI 2 FULCI in Toronto

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SHOCK reviews the Toronto stop for the stunning FRIZZI 2 FULCI show.

The first few drops of rain began to fall on the small, black-clad and primarily male crowd lined up in front of legendary Queen street West concert hall The Opera House last night, but no one seemed to mind. This dedicated tribe of Toronto horror fans were here to see a spectacle that likely none of them thought they’d ever see in their lifetime; a live performance from an artist that, for most of them growing up, existed only in myth and as a secret handshake between others in that marginalized, spread out gaggle of fans that thrilled to the over-the-top films of director Lucio Fulci.

Indeed last night was an important night for Italian horror film aficionados and yet, so few actually came out for the Toronto stop of maestro Fabio Frizzi’s acclaimed FRIZZI 2 FULCI North American tour (the performance has been selling out everywhere else). The show is the revered composer’s love letter to his late collaborator Fulci, whose gory, operatic dark fantasy films have long obsessed serious genre cultists around the world. Still, the low attendance was irrelevant; in fact, the intimacy the sparsely populated room provided made the performance more akin to a private party. And, oh, what a party…

Following a special VIP reception, in which friends and fans had the chance to hang out with both Frizzi and his special guest, Toronto-based GOBLIN keyboardist Maurizio Guarini (who provided keyboard effects for many of Frizzi’s signature recordings), the composer and his band took the stage at 9:30. Behind the performers, a massive screen was erected; on it, clips from the many films – from 1975’s FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE to 1977’s THE PSYCHIC to 1981’s THE BEYOND – unspooled while Frizzi, holding court center stage, conducted, strummed and plucked his acoustic guitar and bashed his keyboard while his rapturous vocalist Giuletta Zanardi, worked her pipes overtime.

From the first few notes, the audience was electrified. Frizzi, a commanding yet relaxed and friendly presence, engaged the crowd with Italian-accented anecdotes about Fulci and his life in cinema, before drifting back into yet another gorgeously orchestrated performance of majestic cues that most of us in the crowd knew inside and out and yet have never, ever experienced in such a sophisticated, opulent way.

And while it was a kick to see leather-clad Metal-heads swaying like pseudo-hippies to the gentle, Dylan-esque songs from FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE, the energy really started to swell when the band reached 1979’s ZOMBI 2. Re-orchestrating the goofy calypso music that opens the soundtrack album as a harder, guitar driven prog-groove gave way to the mother of all sequences, wherein Guarini sauntered onto stage and added to the screeching ascent of the infamous “eyeball” track. As a moldering zombie mitt pulled actress Olga Karlatos closer to her retina-decimating splinter demise in that legendary scene, Guarini and Frizzi pounded their keys while the band skillfully, gently tweaked subtleties in the original track and Zanardi wailed like a banshee, whipping the crowd into a near religious frenzy.

Here’s a clip from the performance:

The CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD sequence (which Guarini inexplicably opted to sit out, despite having played on the soundtrack) was just as wild, though a mix up with the video projection caused the notorious gut barfing-bit to be cut short. Thank heavens John Morghen’s head drilling remained and the band took that shocking, bloody scene to superlative heights of elegant perversion.

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Frizzi also played some new material from director Scooter McCrae’s short film SAINT FRANKENSTEIN, lush music that proved that he remains a vital, relevant contemporary composer. By the time the band reached its final encore, a performance of the signature soundtrack for THE BEYOND, fans were united in what felt like a hazy, orgasmic dream. Many of us had misty eyes (this writer included) and all of us knew, as we stepped out into the now pouring rain, that we had witnessed something special, something that we’d likely never see again.

Even if we do end up seeing it again.

Because there really isn’t anything like your first time…